This Album Changed My Life: John Hiatt – Bring The Family (1987)

In Tua Nua’s Paul Byrne on an album that influenced his band’s songwriting.

In Tua Nua

In Tua Nua

 

Sitting in our cramped tour minibus driving across Europe in the summer of 1987, Martin Clancy passed me a cassette and said “Listen to this”. I put it on and was smitten with the voice, the songs and the instrumentation – Hiatt’s backing band were Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Kelter.

In Tua Nua was changing; we had gone from jamming out riffs and then trying to turn them into stadium-rock songs to a more structured songwriting approach, writing entire songs individually or in pairs. Martin and I had started to write a lot of songs together or sometimes with Jack [Dublin], so we always shared what we were listening to in order to understand each other’s references.

The lyrical honesty of Hiatt’s songs and the blurred musical lines between country, soul and rock on the album spoke to us and said “stop with your crazy arrangements and weird chords, write some songs that are easy for Leslie [Dowdall] to sing and let the band just play”.

The songs we were writing formed the basis of The Long Acre which cracked the US market for the band. I don’t think it would be the album it became had it not been for our discovery of Bring The Family. I’m not saying that we even came close to writing the calibre of songs like Lipstick Sunset, Have a Little Faith or Tip of My Tongue but they are probably the reason we wrote Don’t Fear Me Now and Sweet Lost Soul and it even influenced our choice of Producer Don Dixon (REM) and the location for recording – Charlotte, North Carolina.

A couple of years later in 1989, Martin and I paid homage to him with a bluesy rock song called Don’t Bring The Family on the band’s final album, but unfortunately we broke up before it was released. The song does still feature in all of our live shows.

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